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Published on April 22, 2020

How to Use the Law of Reciprocity for Effective Persuasion

How to Use the Law of Reciprocity for Effective Persuasion

Can you think of a time when someone did something nice to you for no apparent reason?

It may seem like this happens rarely. And maybe that is why when it does, it really stands out. When someone does something to help us in some way, we feel grateful. And when we feel grateful, we also feel like we want to do something for the other person.

What you are feeling in these situations is the law of reciprocity. This feeling that we get from wanting to help others or give them something can be a useful tool to help you achieve a goal.

Here are some ways you can use the law of reciprocity for effective persuasion.

What is the Principle of Reciprocity?

The principle of reciprocity is a term in social psychology. To put it simply, it means that if someone does something nice for you, you have the built-in tendency to want to do something nice for them.

This is apparent in almost all social situations: personal relationships, in business, familial relationships, and just about every interaction with other people.

Here is one example.

Most years, my wife and I send out holiday cards. I always ask my wife why we send them to certain people.

I always ask my wife, “why are we sending a holiday card to the Smiths?”. And she always answers, “because they send us one”, even though we have not seen them or spoken to them for over 10 years.

We feel obligated to send the Smith family a card because they send us one. They did something for us, we should do something for them.

According to Linda and Charlie Bloom from Psychology Today:

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The rule of reciprocation “has to do with the universal tendency in human beings to feel compelled to repay or reciprocate when given a gift whether it has come in the form of a material object, a kind deed, or an act of generosity. There is a strong impulse in people from all cultures to repay gifts or favors with a gift of our own to them. This impulse expresses itself in reciprocation to invitations to parties, Christmas cards, birthday presents, or acts of kindness.”[1]

Law of Reciprocity and Business

Think of the companies you do business with. This can be your job working with your vendors or partners or other businesses. It can also be the companies you do business with on a personal level – the grocery store, coffee shop, dry cleaners, etc.

In almost all cases, we work with businesses that we trust.

I mean, would you work with a company you do not trust? I know I would not.

This is exactly where the law of reciprocity comes into effect.

Build Trust

When a company is still small and looking to gain more customers, they usually give away something for free to grow their business. These could be pieces of advice or services, but most of the time these are products.

This is very evident in the software industry. The reason is simple: people see new cool software, and they want to try it out before they buy it. Getting to try it for free for 2 weeks lets them check it out, play with it, and hopefully fall in love with it.

This is why you will usually see between 40% – 60% of free trails get converted to paid subscriptions. The company shows that you should trust them and their product by providing you with a new product to try out for a while.

Show Appreciation

Now that the trust has been built, well-run businesses will show ongoing appreciation for your patronage. Again, this is the law of reciprocity coming into effect.

In a study done by the U.S. Small Business Administration, almost 68% of customers will end a business relationship if they do not feel appreciated. Compare this to the 14% who leave a company because of a poor product.[2]

When a company shows appreciation, customers feel like the company cares about them. This is why we love it when the companies give us “special discounts” for being their loyal customers.

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Incentivize Customers

This is where the referral programs come in.

How many companies do you know that will give you a $50 or $100 credit when you refer a new customer to them?

Exactly.

These kinds of programs are incredibly popular. You are doing something for the company, therefore they will do something for you. You know if you refer someone who signs up for the companies services, then the company will reward you financially. It is a great win-win situation.

How to Use the Law of Reciprocity for Effective Persuasion

Now that we know what the law of reciprocity is and how it is used in business, let us look at how we can use it for effective persuasion.

Remember, persuasion means convincing someone to do something for us.

This is not as terrible as it sounds; it is not like we are playing an elaborate game trying to be master puppeteers with other people. We all try to persuade others for things from time to time because it is human nature.

Just recently, I persuaded my boss into letting me go to a conference I wanted. The way I achieved this was by stepping up and completing a big project. I then asked about going to the conference while explaining how attending this conference will make me even better at my job. See how that worked?

Here are a few ideas for using the law of reciprocity for effective persuasion.

1. Give Something First

Being the first person to give something to someone else puts you in a position of power. It is like doing someone a favor before they ask for it. It then becomes the unwritten and unspoken rule that they “owe you”.

It does not happen as often these days, but this is the exact reason why I am the first of my friends to buy a round at a bar when we go out. You always remember who bought the first round but rarely who bought the 3rd one.

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This worked well in my example above with my boss and the conference. I gave my boss something first – a lot of assistance on a big project. My boss did not ask for my help; I volunteered it. Then a month or so after the project was complete, I asked about going to the conference.

Nothing was spoken about the extra work I did on the project, but I implied it when I stated how going to the conference would help complete similar projects more effectively down the road.

Give something first.

2. Give Something That Truly Benefits Someone

Your offer of assistance has to actually benefit the other party. If it does not, there is a chance it will feel like you are just trying to manipulate people.

Ensure that you are giving something that will help someone in a manner that comes across as no strings attached. If someone can further benefit from your product, advice or service, then you have given them a taste of what you can do.

If you have ever received an invitation in the mail for a nice steak dinner hosted by a financial advisor, you are receiving 2 things – a great meal and some financial advice.

Just about all of us can use some sound financial advice and appreciate a nice meal. Once the presentation ends and your meal starts to settle, you may start to think about how this financial advisor can help you.

This person has given you something valuable for free, now you feel somewhat obligated to do business with him or her.

3. Make It Personal

A gift coming from a personal place makes the gesture more effective than coming from a faceless corporation. This is why we see real-life stories attached to big businesses so much. Companies take themselves to a personal level we can relate to.

We relate to other human beings, not gigantic companies.

I have personally received customized return address labels from the Humane Society on numerous occasions. When I am done marveling at how nice they are, I almost always write them a donation check. They make those address labels from those cute and cuddly puppies and kittens, making it immensely personal and heart-warming.

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4. Keep the Giving Going

Now that you have given something of value to another person in a meaningful way, you will want to keep it going.

Do not just give something then walk away when you get what you want. To keep the good vibes going and continuously build goodwill, it is important to keep giving valuable things to people.

You can also change it up so it is not the same thing over and over. But the point is to continue to provide something that someone else can use.

As an example, I have been a recruiter for 15 years. Over the years, I have spoken to many people who have been laid off or downsized for one reason or another.

Many of these people have not looked for a job in a decade or longer, so they tend to flounder. Even if the skills and experience they possess are not fit for a position I am recruiting for, I am always happy to talk to them if they want to. The reason being is that I can leverage my years of recruiting experience to help them in their job search.

Talk to them about tips and ways to be more effective and get more interviews. I am not getting anything out of it, but I do it because I am knowledgeable in job searching, and my advice is helpful to people looking for a job.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the law of reciprocity can be extremely helpful for effective persuasion. It is an effective way for good companies to do business, and it is something that you and I can use in our everyday lives. It is something that can help us in our relationships and most certainly in our careers.

When you can be the first to do something nice for someone else, it can help you persuade that person to assist you in some manner that you want. It is not about getting someone to do something they would not normally do.

What you are doing is providing something beneficial to another person so when the time is right, they may provide something beneficial back to you.

It is a circle of giving where we all help each other out.

More Tips About Effective Persuasion

Featured photo credit: Chris Liverani via unsplash.com

Reference

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Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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